Outreach, Classes, and Seminars

The Pacific Northwest Climate CIGnal

The Climate Impacts Group (CIG) issues a quarterly electronic newsletter designed to provide updates on regional climate and climate-related research, meetings, and topics of interest to Pacific Northwest (PNW) decision makers and resource managers. The first newsletter was distributed in January 2005.

To subscribe to the newsletter, please visit the CIG's "climateupdate" list serve home page. You can also subscribe to the newsletter by sending a blank email to the following address: climateupdate-subscribe@mailman.u.washington.edu.


The Pacific Northwest Climate CIGnal

Issue #21, Spring 2010

In this Issue

  1. Announcing the Retirement of CIG Co-Director and Founder, Edward Miles
  2. PNW Climate Outlook
  3. PNW Streamflow Forecast Update
  4. Update on Washington State Climate Change Adaptation Planning
  5. Climate Change and Threats to American Pika Habitat
  6. Conference Announcement: The First Annual PNW Climate Science Conference
  7. US EPA Climate Change Webinars and National Workshop
  8. CIG Publications
  9. CIG in the News

1. Announcing the Retirement of CIG Co-Director and Founder, Edward Miles

Ed Miles, Co-Director and founder of the Climate Impacts Group (CIG) and Center for Science in the Earth System (CSES) and former director and current professor at the School of Marine Affairs (pictured above), is retiring in June 2010 after more than 35 years of service at the University of Washington.

Dr. Miles received a Ph.D. in 1965 from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies, only three years after graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. from Howard University. Dr. Miles’s contributions to ocean governance, climate science, and academia are significant. In addition to extensive teaching and mentoring at the UW, Dr. Miles has served as:

(See Dr. Mile's SMA faculty page for more details)

In addition to directing the CIG for the past 15 years, Dr. Miles is also the Virginia and Prentice Bloedel Professor of Marine and Public Affairs at the School of Marine Affairs, a Professor at the Evans School of Public Affairs, Adjunct Professor at the School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, and a Senior Fellow of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean.

Upon retirement, Ed intends to maintain an active role in the research on ocean acidification and the ramifications for marine ecosystems and policy measures. Leadership at the CIG and CSES will be assumed by Nathan Mantua, CIG Co-Director and Associate Research Professor at the UW School of Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries, and Amy Snover, Associate Director of the CIG.

A public symposium will be held in honor of Dr. Miles's retirement from 1:00-5:00 pm on June 4, 2010. The symposium, entitled “Environmental Governance: Challenges in the 21st Century", will consist of panel presentations, discussions, a lecture delivered by Dr. Miles entitled “Whither Ocean Governance?”, and a reception. For more information, please visit the symposium website.

2. Climate Outlook

The 8 April NOAA El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) diagnostic discussion is for ENSO "to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2010 and transition to ENSO-neutral conditions by Northern Hemisphere summer 2010." Read more on the outlook for the Pacific Northwest...

3. Pacific Northwest Streamflow Forecast Updates

Below normal streamflows were forecasted for the winter-spring season and these forecasts were confirmed by the observed streamflows over the past three months. The River Forecast Center's monitor of current runoff conditions for the Dalles station on the lower Columbia River support the forecast for lower-than-normal streamflows. This forecast was made based on the predominant land surface conditions during the months of February and March. Below normal snow water equivalent (SWE) and soil moisture characterized the conditions during these months in the lower Columbia. Alternatively, the upper reaches of the Columbia River and regions south of the lower Snake River underwent normal to above normal land surface conditions. Early April precipitation shifted the below normal conditions dominating the western drainages of the Coastal Range and the Puget Sound to above normal streamflow forecasts.

The April 26th forecast agrees with the one made in late January indicating below normal streamflow in the Columbia and Snake River basins for the summer. However in contrast to January’s forecast, April’s values exceed 30% below normal for many stations located on the Snake River Basin, such as Lower Monumental, Little Goose, Hells Canyon, Oxbow, Brownlee, and Boise. This reduction in the latter forecast of streamflows is primarily attributable to the below normal snowfall during the late winter/early months, resulting in a poor SWE-season by the start of spring. In terms of the soil moisture, drier-than-normal conditions predominated in the Columbia Plateau and the Blue Mountains. Both the NOAA and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) forecast neutral ENSO conditions, transitioning to La Niña conditions later. As a consequence of these ENSO conditions, the skill to generate streamflow forecasts will diminish, defaulting to reproductions of historical streamflow simulations. The current forecast from the Experimental National Hydrologic Prediction System, however, captures the poor snowfall season with a streamflow forecast 20 and 30% below normal for much of the Snake River and the Columbia River basins for the summer months.

4. Update on Washington State Climate Change Adaptation Planning

As part of the procedure outlined in Sections 10-13 of Washington Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5560, the Washington Department of Ecology has convened four Topic Advisory Groups (TAGs) to develop a statewide strategy for preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change. The TAGs are organized topically around four central themes:

The TAGs are composed of representatives from a wide range of local and state agencies, utilities, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and the research community. The TAGs will use best available science on the impacts of climate change to (among other things):

TAGs will use the CIG’s 2009 Washington State assessment as a basis for constructing the state’s adaptation plan in addition to other sources, including a series of white papers being prepared by the National Wildlife Federation for TAG 3.

Over the next year the TAGs will meet separately and jointly (via specially scheduled cross-TAG meetings) to discuss strategies, recommendations, and cross-cutting issues for the statewide response. A final strategy is due to the Washington State legislature by December 1, 2011.

More information on Washington’s TAGs is available through the Washington Department of Ecology. Future updates will also be available through the Climate CIGnal.

5. Climate Change and Threats to American Pika Habitat

In October 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) required the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to conduct a review on the status of the American pika (Ochotona princeps) in order to determine if the threats to this species warrant its protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The pika is a small mammal inhabiting fields in alpine and subalpine mountainous regions ranging from central British Columbia to New Mexico and the Sierra Nevadas of California. The thermal range of this species is very limited and when temperatures climb above 79oF, the pika can undergo higher mortality rates from heat exposure. As a result, the pika has sought higher elevation habitats in its southern range with increasing temperatures. In January 2010, the FWS completed its review of the threats to this species and its habitat and submitted its findings to the Federal Register.

The FWS assessment found that among the risks posed to this species’ habitat, including infringement from livestock, fire, invasive species and roads, the greatest threat to the American pika is rising temperatures. An important component of the FWS analysis was the climate modeling conducted by the CIG. The CIG used two methods to model temperatures in the region, both described in the Washington State Assessment and this overview document. The first method, statistical downscaling, analyses low spatial resolution input from global models and statistically downscales the data to determine finer scale climatology. The second method, dynamical downscaling, applies high-resolution regional models to simulate small-scale climatological processes. The benefit of applying both methods is that they both corroborate the warming trend in the future. The FWS found that projections of warmer temperatures in the future, particularly in the summertime, have implications for pika habitat, but did not warrant the listing of this species under the ESA. More details on the findings are available in the FWS pika report.

6. Conference Announcement: The First Annual PNW Climate Science Conference

Registration is now open for the 1st Annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference, which will be held in Portland, OR on June 15-16, 2010. The conference provides an opportunity to learn about the latest in Pacific Northwest climate change and climate impacts research. Conference topics include:

Registration is now open via the conference website. The registration fee is $40. All registrations must be received by close of business on June 6. Students are free. Space is limited so please register early to guarantee a spot.

The Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference is sponsored by a consortium of research groups and federal and state agencies, including the:

For more information, visit the conference website.

7. US EPA Climate Change Webinars and National Workshop

The US EPA is hosting a series of climate change and water management webinars in May that are open to the public. Details on the webinars and conference are provided below.

8. Recent CIG Publications

Recent CIG publications include the following:

For copies of these papers, please contact the CIG. A complete listing of CIG publications is available on the CSES publications page.

9. CIG in the News

Recent media stories featuring CIG research and/or researchers include the following:

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Additional news items are available at CIG in the News.

Posted May 13, 2010